Kids By Christmas
Kids by Christmas is the last in Janice Kay Johnson’s trilogy about siblings who were separated when their parents were killed and who have now found each other. The first two books in the series – Open Secret and Lost Cause – told how Suzanne Chauvin, the oldest of the family, discovered her sister and brother, Carrie and Gary, and how both Carrie and Gary found someone to love and marry. In this book Suzanne’s story is told.
Suzanne Chauvin is blissfully happy to have discovered her siblings and to finally have a family again. Suzanne has been lonely and isolated for a number of years. She married her high school sweetheart, hoping for love and happiness only to discover he was a short tempered man who constantly found fault with her. Next door neighbor Tom Stefanec saw and heard Suzanne’s husband’s insults, and his heart ached for her – but he didn’t intervene except to call the police when he was afraid that things were going to get out of hand. Tom was quietly happy when Suzanne divorced her husband and since then, they have smiled and waved, but haven’t gone further. Actually, Suzanne (who is not the neatest woman in the world) is a bit intimidated by Tom’s perfect yard and driveway.
With new siblings, and a new business (Suzanne has opened her own knitting and yarn shop), her life is full, but she wants more. Suzanne has applied to adopt a child and she is willing to take an older one. When the social worker asks if she would be willing to take a brother and sister who can’t be separated, Suzanne agrees at once. She remembers all too well how she and her brother and sister were separated and agrees to meet the children.
Sophia and Jack’s mother died of multiple sclerosis and their father does not want them. While they were with their mother, they moved from place to place and lately have been in a succession of foster homes. Sophia is a bit sullen and old for her years, while Jack is timid and still wets the bed. Suzanne’s heart goes out to the children and she arranges for them to come and stay with her to see how things go with them.
Tom gets dragged into the mix. He is a talented woodworker and owns a truck, so when Suzanne needs help transporting the used furniture she’s bought to her house, Tom is there with the truck. When she needs help re-finishing the furniture, Tom is there to help with that as well. Tom spends more and more time with Suzanne and, finally after all these years, they talk and get to know each other and they fall in love. They are both wary though, because of their difficult childhoods, but we know they will eventually admit their love for each other.
That’s about it, folks. Readers who want drama and lots of action should probably look elsewhere, since this is a very quiet book. There are no Big Misunderstandings, no rages and drama and none of the characters are larger than life. Their problems are not big ones and they don’t flounce around and pout. This book features lots of descriptions of family gatherings, and shopping tours and there are many heart to heart talks – it’s a very domestic novel.
Both Suzanne and Tom have been scarred by their past. She was adopted by an aunt and uncle who resented her. His father was a stiff and cold man who became even more so when Tom’s sister died of cancer. Tom has longed for a home, and a wife and children, but has been on the outside looking in for so long, that he wonders if he was meant to have what he so desires. Suzanne feels the same way, and is frightened by the sensations Tom evokes in her. Their reactions feel right. There’s no forced conflict, and I found myself agreeing – yes, this is exactly how a man or woman who grew up like they did would feel and act. The characters’ emotions are realistic, but it sometimes makes for a slow story. The two children are realistic as well, but I felt like their problems were solved a bit too easily. But this is a series romance and it’s not as though the author had a lot of room to stretch out the story.
Kids By Christmas is a pleasant book from one of the most dependable series romance authors out there. Johnson’s books focus on families – their sorrows, their joys and their love. If you are tired of sturm und drang and would like a sweet Christmas story, give this one a try. I’ll bet you shed a quiet, but happy tear or two over it.